Interview with Harley Mazuk

101044HarleyinTuscanyHarley Mazuk was born in Cleveland, the last year the Indians won the World Series. Harley grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, attended Hiram College and spent his junior year at Elphinstone College, Bombay University. He received his B.A. in English literature. Retired from a long career in U.S. Government Service, Harley now writes full-time. He and his wife Anastasia live in Maryland, where they raised two children. Harley’s passions are writing, reading, Italian cars, and his family. He and his protagonist, Frank Swiver, share a love of California wine. Visit Harley Mazuk online at: www.harleymazuk.com

Tell us about your new release.

51ZieRgHZBLWhite with Fish, Red with Murder is the story of Frank Swiver, a private eye, who accepts an invitation to a wine tasting on a private rail car, and brings along his secretary and lover, Vera Peregrino. The host, General Thursby, wants Frank to find proof that a friend whose death was ruled accidental had been murdered. Thursby suspects Cicilia O’Callaghan, widow of his late friend and an old flame of Frank’s. But Thursby takes two slugs through the pump, and the cops arrest Vera for his killing. Frank finds himself trapped in a love triangle as he spends his nights with Cici, and his days trying to find Thursby’s real killer and spring Vera. But soon he realizes his relationship with Cici is poisonous, and he risks losing both women . . . and maybe his life.

What led you to write this book?

Being a bit of a rebellious youth, I never expected to reach old age. So as my 50th birthday loomed, the occasion called for a celebration. I decided to write a murder mystery game for my 50th birthday party. I asked the guests to dress in their best 1940s fashions, at a minimum fedoras for the gents and stockings with seams for the dames. I wrote scripts and assigned roles. There was plenty of wine, and everyone had fun. Some years later, I began to entertain serious thoughts about becoming a writer when I retired. I took the old scripts and dossiers I had written for the murder mystery characters out of the drawer and began to turn them into a novel, White with Fish, Red with Murder.

Which is more important characters or setting?

When you think about the elements of fiction–plot, setting, character, point of view, theme—setting is perhaps first among equals. Everything begins with, grows out of, starts with place. A story has to know where it is in time and place. Characters develop in and are shaped by their environments.

I didn’t think this way about the primacy of setting when I wrote most of White with Fish, so in my book, characters are more important than setting. It’s a character-driven novel.

Are any of your characters loosely based on people you know in real life?

They are, loosely. Some are composites of characters I’ve known; with some I relive incidents from my life that I think have or had emotional or dramatic impact. A good example is that I’ve never been a private eye, and I’ve never lived in San Francisco. Yet there’s a lot of me in my P.I., Frank Swiver. Frank is a pacifist, a Roman Catholic, and he drinks too much wine. I was a conscientious objector, I’m a Catholic, and I drink a lot of wine, too. So we share a consciousness, a philosophy, and an approach to life. That makes it easy for me to write Frank’s part. Other characters in the book share traits with people I’ve known, and we’ve lived through incidents that I recreate it the book.

What do you hope readers take away from your work?

This book is an “entertainment,” as Graham Greene used to say about some of his works. So I hope readers enjoy it and have fun. I’d like to transport readers to a slower paced, less technical world, in which the detective doesn’t rely on technology, lab results, or computers to solve the crime, but rather on his courage, his persistence, and work ethic. I’d like to leave readers wanting to come back and see Frank Swiver and some of the other characters again—there will be more.

Do you read the same genre you write?

For the most part, yes, I do. Mystery or detective fiction. This last fall and winter, I read Black Water Rising by Attica Locke, A Corpse in the Koryo, by James Church, Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris, The Coroner’s Lunch, Colin Cotterill, Miami Purity, Vicki Hendricks, and two Michael Didbin’s Cosi Fan Tutti and Dead Lagoon, featuring Aurelio Zen. Zen is one of my influences for Frank Swiver. I read an Eric Ambler novel, The Light of Day, on my Kindle.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading Richard III by William Shakespeare, a play about what happens when a sociopath takes over a great country. I’ve never read this before, but so far, I find it absolutely brilliant. I often have to use study guides to understand Shakespeare’s language, but the dialogue in this is so vivid, so clear, I know exactly what’s going on. Richard is not a likable character; he’s loathsome, actually, but he establishes a connection with the audience in his opening monologue. I won’t say readers (or audiences) root for him, exactly, but like Hannibal Lecter, he’s compelling, fascinating even. And though it is classified as a history play, the title page calls it “The Tragedy of King Richard the third.” It’s very enjoyable so far, and I think a writer can learn a lot from reading Shakespeare.

Interview with C L Etta author or LOVE’S TETHERED HEART

51br1r9nfdlHappy New Year! Thank you for hosting me today.

Tell us about your new release.

Love’s Tethered Heart is the third book I’ve written and by far the best. It’s the tale of Mico and Danny who beyond all probability meet then fall in love. What makes the story unique is that Mico has quadriplegia and is ventilator dependent. What makes their meeting improbable is that Danny is a carefree journalist, living four hundred miles north of Mico’s hometown in NM and because of the mechanics involved Mico rarely leaves his bedroom. How he lost his ability to move unfolds through a series of interviews with Mico’s, family and friends. Love’s Tethered Heart encompasses faith, hope, forgiveness and unconditional love. It’s a story about life.

What do you hope readers take away from your work?

I like angst and happy endings. I appreciate the emotional rollercoaster of a good story and I would enjoy bringing that same experience to my readers. I hope they will take the journey with my characters and come away feeling better for having accompanied them.

Continue reading “Interview with C L Etta author or LOVE’S TETHERED HEART”

Interview with Sam Newsome

photo-3SAM NEWSOME Sam Newsome was raised on a farm in rural King, North Carolina. During his childhood on the farm, he learned to appreciate nature and family. He developed the work ethic that continues to benefit him. He received a bachelor of arts in American history with pre­medical courses from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1971. He received his Medical degree from Bowman Gray Medical School (now Wake Forest University Medical School) in 1975. The patience and perseverance learned from his parents during his youth on the farm were valuable contributions to Dr. Newsome’s educational success. He married his childhood sweetheart, Betty Jo, in 1971 and they have resided in King since 1978. They have two children. Carlton lives in Raleigh and shares a love of words, while Justin, an engineer at B/E Aerospace, resides in Winston­Salem.

joe-peas-jpegTell us about your new release.

My new novel, JOE PEAS, explores the relationship of an itinerant Italian house painter with Dr. James King, a family physician in the small town of King’s Mill, North Carolina. Joe has led a colorful life as a rugged individual, while Doc leads a life filled with conformity.

They initially meet in a doctor-patient relationship, but then develop a bond that deepens when Joe breaks his hip and rehabs in Doc’s long-term care facility.

While he is in rehabilitation, he shares in the lives and struggles of other residents and begins to understand the meaning of friends and family. He helps with their problems and has a unique plan to help Doc.

What led you to write this book?

jackie_coverMy first novel, JACKIE, was well received. Since then I’ve been listening more closely to my patients. They have led rich lives and have wonderful stories to tell. They were inspirational in developing the characters in my new story. The new story enabled me to put some color into life in long-term care. It also allowed me to provide some health education.

Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book?

Research was largely getting up every morning and going to work. The bulk of the story occurs in the life and practice of a family doctor. Not much research is needed there. Parts of the book: World War II, the art world, legal affairs did require some time online and some friendly advice.

How important is the setting of your story?

I’ve spent my medical career in family medicine. I treat patients in my office, hospital, as well as in long-term care. I chose to highlight long-term care in this story because it is so misunderstood by most people. In long-term care, I see folks fighting severe illnesses who have led remarkable, vibrant lives.

Noted geriatrician, Dr. Kenneth Brummel Smith speaks of the past reputations nursing homes have had (some deservedly) of being ”snake pits.” The nursing home in my story mirrors my experience of a caring compassionate atmosphere.

Which is more important, character or setting?

My story is character driven. I wrote four character studies and introduced them into the story and to each other in the setting of a nursing home. Some have their story is revealed before a nursing home admission and others are revealed by their interactions with other residents and staff.

Are any of your characters loosely based on people you know in real life?

Yes! There are several aspects of my patients seen in the characters of Joe Peas. For some of these I had to elaborate a bit. For others I had to tone down their stories since a true account would be asking my readers to suspend believability.

Do you people watch for character inspiration?

My profession as a physician is people watching. Sure, I watch people in the supermarket or at a movie. But people talk to me in the office in a one-to-one basis.

Do you have a favorite fictional character by another author you’d like to share?

My favorite characters are usually in the book I’m currently reading. Right now I’m deeply involved in Gresham’s Sycamore Row, sharing life of attorney Jake Brigance of Clanton, Mississippi as he unravels the estate of Seth Hubbard while fending off new and previous obstacles. I’m actually listening to this as an audiobook and with all the deep-south accents I can actually smell the magnolias.

I spent many years sharing the life of Roland Deshane of middle earth and multiple alternate realities created by Stephen King in the Dark Tower series. The seven-book odyssey and his multiple other books with references to middle earth caught my attention for years on end. I’ve heard King say of himself that he writes by the pound rather than the word, and while that may be true, he certainly entertains and shows a broad span of literary inspiration from Sir Walter Scott to T.S. Elliot.

I feel a traitor to small presses everywhere to admit to such “popular” tastes, but how can you argue with success?

What do you hope readers take away from your work?

First, I want the reader to be entertained. That has to beevery author’s first goal. If they can’t slog through your book, they won’t get any of your other messages. I want my writing to deliver a celebration of the values of family, friendship faith and healing. I want to present my view that individualism has value while conformity is not always positive. My characters overcome obstacles and have positive outcomes. I have woven a significant amount of health education into Joe Peas. I think it actually helps the story.

Do you have an interesting quirk about your personality that you’d like to share?

Quirks! I have no quirks. Everything I do is logical and reasoned. Now everyone around me—WOW—they have quirks, but not me. OK, maybe I have one or two small oddities. Once an idea occurs to me I become obsessed. I can’t put it away in some dustbin the back of my mind till I’ve put it on a page.

What do you do when you are not writing?

First, I’m a doctor. I’ve worked years to gain the confidence and trust of my patients, and have been lucky enough to treat the same patients for forty years. I still do my office practice, hospital and nursing home rounds daily.

Which book impacted you as a teenager?

I remember early on reading the Hardy boy books. I love Jesse Stuart’s Hie to the Hunter. Then I became engrossed in James Finemore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales. I also began to read science fiction in the form of H. G. Well, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur Clark.

Do you read the genre you write?

There are so many great new books and there are so many classics I never read when I had the chance. Yes, I read books in my genre. But I try not to limit it.

What is #1 on your bucket list?

At one time it was actually writing a book. Now it’s writing a book that will make a profit.

Have you ever written a scene that “creeped you out?”

Read my first novel, Jackie. That book was published in October 2013. There is a scene (you’ll know when you read it) that is so prophetic it’s scary.

Do you have a recurring theme to your books?

I think that to be a writer, you should have a message. I would love to write a great spy story with guns and explosions and all grades of violence, but that’s not where I live. I’m not a Clancy or a Ludlum or even a Cussler. I’m a family doc who has spent years listening to my patients. I hear their complaints and share their problems. The theme of my story is not dystopic, but present a positive outlook for human nature. Most of my characters change and evolve to positive outcomes. I also hear their stories.When those stories inspire a tale that benefits the reader, I have achieved my goal.

What’s next?

I’m thinking of writing a story based on the North Carolina outer banks involving a smattering of history and a lot of modern day discoveries of hidden treasures. I plan to focus on elementary school age as my audience. There’s nothing more than a few notes yet, just thoughts. As for questions I would like to be asked—Why do you write?

I think that’s a fair question. After all, with the advent of the small and independent press industry in addition to the traditional publishing venues, the printed word is more prolific than ever. Almost every day one of my patients will ask me about my books and say, “I’ve written one too.” With so much verbiage already out there, why write? I write to record positive stories inspired by my patients and encounters with a small amount of my own point of view. Hopefully, I present an uplifting message. I write because it gives me satisfaction to fashion a story similar to the way a carpenter builds a house. In short, I write because I must.

Interview: Patricia Briggs

Fire TouchedTell us about your new release. FIRE TOUCHED is the ninth book in the Mercy Thompson series—the ongoing stories of a coyote shapeshifter plunked down among werewolves and vampires and other assorted supernatural creatures. In Fire Touched, the showdown that has been building up between the fae and the rest of the world takes a left turn that will change Mercy’s world forever.

Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book? My husband, my assistant and I got a tour from the very nice folks at Lampson International and got to crawl all over one of the largest mobile cranes in the world. It was very cool—and left me pretty impressed by the achievements of engineering and physics.

We also spent part of a day crawling all over the cable bridge that spans the Columbia River between Pasco and Kennewick, taking photos and discussing various methods of destruction and mayhem. I’m still waiting for someone to review their security system, notice us, and send the FBI out to investigate us for possible terrorism. Not as much fun as when we discussed how to dispose of bodies at a restaurant—only later to realize that the people in the table behind us were uniformed police officers. But I’ll take my fun where I can find it.

Are any of your characters loosely based on people you know in real life? I’m very wary about basing characters on real people, especially in a long running series because I might have to do something . . . unpleasant to my characters (I wake up every day grateful that I am not the protagonist in an urban fantasy series). That said, there are two characters in this series based on real people. I have a friend who worked at an antiquarian bookstore. One day, when the series was just beginning, he suggested that Mercy should come to his store to look for information on the fae in one of his rare books. We laughed—but the idea took root. So in the middle of the third book, that’s what happened.

The second character was planned right from the start. We had this amazing mechanic shop in Kennewick, owned by an older man who scared me to death. You’d go into Buck’s shop and he’d scowl and snarl impatiently. But their their work was good—and most importantly for us, cheap. Then one day I went into the shop to ask for a gas cap for our old van.

“Why do you want a gas cap,” he said sourly (remember, this guy made his living working with the public!) “It fell off the van,” I told him hesitantly. He frowned and narrowed his eyes. “Gas caps don’t fall off of vans,” he told me sharply. And right then, I’d had enough of being intimidated by him. I frowned back. “My husband told me to come here and buy a new gas cap, because the gas cap had fallen off the van. I’m a good wife, I take my husband at his word. So he didn’t leave it at the gas station—the gas cap just fell of the van.” You know? That scary old man threw his head back and laughed—and that was the last time he scowled at me.

He was crusty, but Buck was one of the kindest, most generous and honest people I’ve known. When we couldn’t pay for a needed repair, he sold us the parts at cost—and had us talk to his mechanic so we could fix it. When one of their repairs didn’t work (not their fault, we drove Very old cars), and left my husband Mike stranded at work—Buck drove (unasked) fifteen miles to make the repair. When a little girl disappeared from our neighborhood, he and his sons stayed out all night with a group of volunteers, knocking on doors. (No, they didn’t find her. Her body was found a year later. It was horrible.) When Buck saw a teenager sitting under a piece of cardboard, he and his wife took her in. Just before I started writing the Mercy series, I knew that his lung cancer had returned and treatment was unlikely to help. I asked him if he minded if I used him as a character in the books and he lit right up—and so Floyd (Buck) Buckner became the core of Mercy’s grumpy gremlin mechanic mentor, Siebold Adelbertsmiter, better known as Zee.

Do you people watch for character inspiration? All of my life. As a child, I found that understanding why people do what they do, made my world make more sense.

What do you hope readers take away from your work? I hope that people who read my books laugh, cry, sweat, and hope with my characters—and that, when readers are through with the final sentence, they are in a little better place than they were when they started.

What do you do when you are not writing? I am privileged to breed Arabian horses. I’ve been involved with horses since I was eight or nine. After more than forty years of riding, lessons, and more riding even a physically ungifted person like me achieves a certain skill level. But I never thought that raising the darn things would appeal to me. Then I bought a lovely mare for my husband to ride—and she came with a breeding to a beautiful stallion. So I bred her. The moment I saw that little chestnut boy, I knew I wanted to do more of that.

The second thing that occupies time and energy is that my husband and I are building a carousel.

I grew up in Butte, Montana, and one of the mainstays of our summers was going to the Columbia Gardens on the weekends. The Columbia Gardens was an amusement park—tiny by the standards of Disneyland or Six Flags, but it was ours. As the name implies, there were beautiful gardens—and three rides—an old wooden rollercoaster, an incredibly dangerous (to my adult eyes) airplane swing we thought rather tame, and a merry-go-round. The merry-go-round, with its lead black stallion, was my favorite.

While I was still in elementary school, the mining company who owned the land the Columbia Gardens was on, discovered that there were gold deposits beneath the old-and-no-longer-profitable amusement park. Legal battles ensued about whether or not the company could close the park. Then, in the middle of winter, “kids” broke into the seasonally closed park and burned down the building that kept the carousel horses, the wooden airplanes and rollercoaster cars safe from the weather. That effectively stopped all the legal battles and closed the park—and left me with a love of carousels that is tinged with loss.

Which overly-dramatic-but-still-true story is the only explanation I can offer for what we are doing now. My husband and I are engaged in what may be the single largest version of a project scope creep ever. We started out to buy a carousel horse for the house—and now we are building a carousel from the remains of a hundred year old frame. People ask us what we are going to do with it when we finish it—but they miss the point, which is a good thing because we aren’t going to be done with it for, probably ten or twenty years. The point is the process of creation with my family. The point is that I’m learning a lot I will use in future stories, not just about carousels, but about immigration in the early 20th century, about art, about mechanical things. There are a thousand stories about theft and corruption and greed that are intertwined with the history of these old things. I’m eating them up to reissue in slightly altered versions.

Have you ever written a scene that ‘creeped’ you out? Hah! Yes. I had to leave my office and write the last quarter of Bone Crossed in my living room where there were lots of lights and people. Usually it works the other way around, though–something creeps me out and I use it in a story. Mostly I use my nightmares. I’m probably one of the very few people in the world who has a nightmare and is happy about it. But sometimes I get to use real life happenings.

I used the following experience to write a scene in Blood Bound. When I was four or five, my bed was right next to a window. One night, while I was going to sleep, some noise outside caught my attention. I woke up and there was a face pressed against the glass of the window (distorted by being smooshed against the glass), not six inched from me. Scared me to death. The nice old lady from down the street who was babysitting me wasn’t particularly fast, and the owner of the face was long gone when she finally made it into the room. She tucked me back in and told me not to look out of the window at night. I know, right? But she was old school—and also the reason why I can’t hang my feet or hands off the bed when I sleep to this day. It was years before I could look out a window at night.

What are you reading now? I just finished Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold. Wow. She is such a terrific storyteller. This one is not a book for anyone who hasn’t read the Vorkosigan saga (If you haven’t, go do so. You’ll thank me for it, I promise.) But for we who love the Vorkosigans, and mourned with them over the events at the end of Cryoburn, this was a welcome gift. Bujold can make you laugh and cry—sometimes on the same page. She rips out your heart and gives it back to you, stronger and better for the experience.

What’s next for you? Currently I’m working on the next Mercy book, as yet unnamed. One word: Vampires. Okay, maybe four: Vampires, golems, and Prague.

Interview with Kate Huntington series author Kassandra Lamb

51ufwcFfKuL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Tell us about your new release. What led you to write this book?

My new release is Suicidal Suspicions and since it is the 8th book in my mystery series, I was having trouble coming up with new challenges for my protagonist, psychotherapist Kate Huntington, to face. The two greatest nightmares for a therapist are a client committing suicide and a malpractice suit. So I have one of Kate’s clients commit suicide, and then the client’s parents threaten Kate with a malpractice suit. But since it was a murder mystery, why not have the suicide be a bit suspicious? Kate alternates between questioning if the client’s death was indeed self-inflicted and questioning her own professional judgement, and at times her own sanity as she struggles with guilt and doubt. Meanwhile all the time and emotional energy that she’s putting into her investigation is taking its toll on her relationships with her husband and kids, adding to her guilt.

Which is more important characters or setting?

I think it’s important that settings be authentic–the reader should be able to envision them in their mind’s eye–and I try to be as realistic as possible with my settings. But my stories are definitely character-driven. What’s going on inside my characters’ heads, the challenges they’re facing, how they’re coping with those challenges, all that is the main fodder of a story for me.

Are any of your characters loosely based on people you know in real life?

No, not any specific people, but I was a therapist for 20 years, and like my character, Kate, I specialized in trauma recovery. I know the disorders commonly caused by trauma extremely well. My great fear is that my former clients will think I’m modeling a character after them specifically, because there are so many common trends in the way these disorders present themselves, but all my characters are totally fictional.

Do you have a reoccurring theme to your books?

Yes, it’s that even strong, “together” people can fall apart for a while when something bad happens to them. Being strong isn’t about never getting sucker-punched by life. It’s about brushing yourself off and putting the pieces back together. I saw my clients do this again and again, and I was always so impressed with these “average” people who kept on going, no matter what life dished out.

What do you hope readers take away from your work?

First and foremost, I want them to be entertained. That’s why they paid good money for my books and I want them to get their money’s worth. But I also want them to get a better understanding of, and empathy for, those who suffer from mental disorders. I focus on at least one disorder per book. I’ve explored everything from PTSD to a pathological serial killer (okay, maybe not empathy for him so much). In Suicidal Suspicions, the young woman who has supposedly committed suicide suffered from bipolar disorder.

Have you ever written a scene that ‘creeped’ you out?

Oh yeah, a couple of them in the book with the serial killer (Fatal Forty-Eight). He doesn’t torture his victims physically, rather he does so psychologically. A few scenes definitely made me shudder as I was writing them.

What’s next for you?

I have a few more things in store for Kate Huntington, but I’m also starting a new series that I’m really excited about. It’s a cozy mystery series featuring a young woman who trains service dogs for PTSD sufferers, mainly combat veterans. I’m currently editing the first book and hope to have it out in a couple of months. So stay tuned for the Marcia Banks and Buddy series.

Interview: Alan Joshua scifi author

Alan Joshua is a Clinical Psychologist who has published many nonfiction articles. Fascinated by creativity and paranormal abilities, this led to his involvement with Psychology and research into Parapsychology.
Joshua has explored alleged reincarnation and paranormal abilities using hypnosis and in-depth interviewing of a wide range of practitioners.
In addition to classical readings, he is a science fiction fan and has been influenced by such writers as Asimov, Bradbury, Crichton, Heinlein, and Phillip Dick among others. An avid Star Trek fan, he is fond of contradicting Gene Roddenberry, believing that the study of human parapsychological potentials, not space, is “the final frontier.”

Tell us about your new release.

My novel, The SHIVA Syndrome, is a multi-genre thriller that includes science fiction and the paranormal. You might think of it as Altered States on meth and LSD. I’ve been surprised and pleased by how reviewers like the Midwest Book Review and Portland Book Review spoke so highly about it.

TheShivaSysndrome-EBOOK-newThe Portland Book Review acclaims The SHIVA Syndrome as a “fascinating book! It’ll magnetize you just like the penetrating gaze of Hindu’s god Shiva and his animal companion on the book’s cover, although the relation of this god of destruction and creation to the book’s topic is symbolic. The SHIVA Syndrome is a sci-fi thriller, a mystery that unfolds on a background of myths and religions, biotechnology, military power, politics, and paranormal human abilities…The descriptions of events and characters are very vivid and engaging. Having the right amount of adventure and romance this crisscrossing genre tale isn’t just a good read, but may also look great on a big screen.”

What led you to write this book?

I did some parapsychological research when I was working on my doctorate. The findings surprised even me. I’ve been exposed to the so-called paranormal in many ways, including paranormal experiences as my own. I use the word “so-called” because I’ve come to realize that what we consider paranormal is based on our point of view. My own feeling is that the paranormal represents extensions of what is normal human potential.

So, The SHIVA Syndrome grew out of my research and personal experiences. One of the strong motivations I felt was to take actual parapsychological and consciousness research and blend it into a fictional scenario. I’m hoping readers will be engrossed in the story yet aware that many aspects of the story are real paranormal abilities.

Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book?

As a matter of fact, it did. As a psychologist and parapsychologist, there were many real, widely accepted concepts. As I inserted these elements into the story line. I was surprised to find that my earlier understanding of them reached a deeper level, because I was looking at them through the eyes of the characters. Some of the revelations were startling and made me respect the power of the creative process even more than I had.

Do you have a favorite fictional character by another author you’d like to meet?

I have quite a few, ranging from Frankenstein’s creature to Valentine Michael Smith of Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land to Dr. Edward “Eddie” Jessup of Chayefsky’s Altered States.

Shelley’s “monster” would be fascinating as he is totally unlike the film’s creature. Most people are more familiar with the 1931 film version, and not the man in Shelley’s book. If they took the time, however, they would be surprised at the gentle, caring, and intelligent being Frankenstein created.

Javier, the policeman from Les Miserables, and Dr. Jekyll would be other interesting characters to interview.

Too many of us—including me—are easily satisfied with sensationalized, oversimplified, unidimensional characters fed to us by the film industry.

Which book impacted you as a teenager?

Moby Dick leads the pack. The mysterious white whale being tracked by the obsessive Ahab was fascinating, even before I became involved in psychology. After I was in the field and more familiar with symbols, Ahab’s spiritual transgressions and madness became more understandable. I still find them occasionally among my psychotherapy clients.

Do you read the same genre you write?

Not necessarily. I’m more of an omni – reader. I recently reread The Great Gatsby, Shelley’s Frankenstein, and am now reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Ray Bradbury will follow that. I guess this is due to my broad interests. It’s also helpful because it acquaints me with a variety of styles of writing that go beyond being locked into a genre.

Have you ever written a scene that ‘creeped’ you out?

For sure. Writing involves identification with your characters. In my novel, Beau Walker is exposed to some horrific ordeals, both internal and external. I have to be careful about avoiding spoilers, so let’s say that one of the characters undergoes a “death” experience which was very chilling and reached into dark places within me that were frightening.

Excerpt:

Walker turned in a circle. The walls had no doors. When he returned to his starting point, the wall at the opposite end of the room had disappeared. Stark sunlight flooded in. His arm shading his eyes, he approached the opening. An immense, rolling landscape spread before him. His jaw dropped as he stood at the threshold and gaped at the lush foliage and rocky prominences. Smoke spewed from a distant volcano. Perhaps eight hundred yards away, concealed in part by tall grasses and tree groves, a group of large, furry animals browsed the vegetation.

Walker stepped out onto the grassland. Then, clutched by anxiety, he looked back toward the specimen room. It was gone. He was alone in a wilderness smelling of sweet grasses and flowers.

He climbed a rocky hill, hoping he could see the lumbering animals more clearly. The pain in his injured leg slowed him, and the baking sun dragged perspiration out of him.

At the top, he watched the herd feeding leisurely. “Mastodons!” I’ve got to get closer.

He moved down the rough walls of the hillock and worked his way along a game trail. A sudden, resounding roar from a ledge above made him freeze in place. Holding his breath, he raised his head slowly. Overhead, a huge, slavering cat’s head peered down, its lips drawn back, revealing four-inch long, scimitar-shaped teeth. He pressed into a niche in the rock wall, screwed his eyes shut, and tried to deny the reality of his situation.

Another thunderous roar confirmed its reality. His eyes darted about, searching wildly for an escape route.

The sinister, striped beige-and-white beast appeared at the bend in the path. It sniffed the air as if relishing his scent, then moved closer. Slowly, gracefully, its sinewy body wound around the curved path. Its green eyes fixed on him, it dipped, coiling into a crouch, readying to spring.

A dark object shot out of a recess in the wall. The thick spear plunged into the cat’s side with such force, it was almost tipped off its feet. With a piercing screech, the cat writhed to free itself. Thick, steely arms forced it towards the edge, pushing it over the side, into rocks below before it crashed to the ground.

Walker released the breath he held, but his relief was short-lived. A barrel-chested figure draped in animal skins stepped into view, holding the blood-slicked, stone-tipped spear. The hulking man watched him expressionlessly. Thick, protruding brow ridges sloped back to reddish-brown hair, merging into a scraggly beard that framed his crude features. Was that a glint of intelligence in the man’s deep-set eyes? He seemed as baffled by Walker’s appearance as Walker was by his.

Could he be…A Neanderthal?

Interview with DARLENE PANZERA

11265360_847593291982867_3212371165505099763_oDarlene Panzera is a multi-published author of sweet, fun-loving romance. Her career launched with THE BET, included in bestselling author Debbie Macomber’s FAMILY AFFAIR. Her newest 3-book series, MONTANA HEARTS, debuts October 2015 from Avon Impulse, a division of HarperCollins. Darlene lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three kids and says, “I love writing stories that inspire people to laugh, value relationships, and pursue their dreams.”

Tell us about your new release.

I write sweet, fun-loving romance. In MONTANA HEARTS: Her Weekend Wrangler, Eonly_9780062394682_Coverthree adult siblings are drawn back to their family’s guest ranch after their father is injured. Out of loyalty to their mother and beloved grandma, and also because their time away hasn’t been as rewarding as they’d hoped, Bree, Luke, and Delaney Collins must put aside past grievances and work together to salvage the home they had once been so eager to leave behind. Bree finds she must also set aside her differences with the handsome cowboy, Ryan Tanner, and convince him to lead the guests on mini roundups. But can she trust him with her heart?

What led you to write this book?

Before writing THE CUPCAKE DIARIES series, I had written a book about a horse ranch titled, BET YOU’LL Bet You'll Marry MeMARRY ME. I really wanted to get back to writing about a ranch with horses because I love the rustic atmosphere and love horses. (I have a black and white paint named J-R.) So I sat down and sketched out a three book proposal for the Montana Hearts series with each title focusing on one of the three siblings.

Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book?

I do! My husband and daughter accompanied me on a road trip to Bozeman, Montana where I attended a writer’s conference that took us on different field trips around the area. We visited the historic Sacajawea Hotel, the local air and rescue helicopter team, and a cowboy rodeo where they shot salt pellets from their guns to pop balloons on poles. We also hiked up to the big white ‘M’ on the hillside at the crack of dawn and visited the nearby Three Forks Saddlery where I bought a new saddle pad. In fact, I base my fictional two block town of Fox Creek in Montana Hearts on the town of Three Forks because I fell in love with the area.

Which is more important characters or setting?

Definitely the characters. My stories focus on relationships, not only between the hero and heroine, but between all of the other people they come into contact as well.

Do you people watch for character inspiration?

Yes, guilty! I was in a restaurant the other day and couldn’t help but overhear a guy telling a girl at the table next to me, , “You’re making a bigger deal out of this than it is.” I saw her hurt expression and my heart went out to her as I realized what was really going on. The guy was being insensitive and wasn’t recognizing her emotions and the fact it was a big deal to her. He proceeded to ignore her and they ate the rest of the meal in silence.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I love spending time with my family, hanging out at the barn with my horse J-R, rooting for the Seattle Seahawks, crafts, photography, camping, hiking, skiing, and swimming at the lake. I’m also a big fan of taking off on spontaneous day trips to the beach or up into the mountains. I gain some of my most creative ideas while on these trips.

Do you have a reoccurring theme to your books?

I love underdogs who find the resolve they need to persevere. I also write about families and mending relationships. I tell people, “I love writing stories that inspire people to laugh, value relationships, and pursue their dreams.”

MontanaHeartsSweetTalkinWhat’s next for you?

MONTANA HEARTS: Sweet Talkin’ Cowboy releases December 15th 2015, and Book 3 in the series releases May of 2016.

Excerpt MONTANA HEARTS: Her Weekend Wrangler:

Bree stayed a few more minutes to watch the couples sway in time to the music, then spun around to search for the three CEO’s and collided straight into a hard, chiseled chest. A soothing warmth spread over her entire body as she glanced up into Ryan’s handsome face and gasped. “You’re here.”

“I wouldn’t miss it.”

She leaned to the side and glanced at the three men behind him. “And you brought your brothers!”

“Yeah, they’re the reason I’m late. They didn’t want to come but I knew how much it meant to you, and why,” he said, giving her a mischievous grin. “So I had to negotiate a deal to get them here.”

Bree smiled because of the way his mouth twitched when he grinned, because of the excitement in his eyes when he looked at her, and because of the way his dark navy blue dress shirt and jeans clung to his splendid physique. Whoa, girl! Remember to keep it casual. Recollecting her thoughts, she met his gaze and asked, “What kind of deal?”

Ryan placed a hand on either side of her waist, his touch firm and…pleasantly possessive. “I had to trade them my earnings from working your ranch so they can buy a set of new tires for their quad.”

He did that for her?

“Which means,” he continued, flashing her another pulse-kicking grin, “I’m a little short on money and I’d be willing to be your weekend wrangler for the rest of the summer, if you’ll have me.”

Stunned, Bree sucked in her breath and stared at him, unable to speak, unable to process exactly what this would mean for her family, unable to think of anything except that Ryan Tanner was absolutely, undeniably, the very, very best! With a little hop, she squealed, unable to hold back her delight, and with her heart taking the lead, she impulsively flung her arms around his neck and…kissed him.